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Builders of Faith Explorer I:  Exploring Bible Truth

Lesson 11—The Sabbath Revisited

 

 

1.  Doesn’t Deuteronomy state that the Sabbath was given to Israel only because they were to remember that God brought them out of slavery in Egypt?

 

“And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.”  Deuteronomy 5:15.

 

Answer:  Almost the entire book of Deuteronomy is Moses’ farewell speech to the Israelites before his death.  So he was paraphrasing all 10 of the Ten Commandments and added an additional reason for Israel to keep the Sabbath.  Actually, Exodus 20:2 and Deuteronomy 5:6 both preface the beginning of the Ten Commandments by reminding Israel that God had brought them out of Egyptian slavery.  As we have learned, all mankind is in slavery to sin before we come to Jesus for salvation.  Therefore, the spiritual lesson applies to all of us.  The entire Ten Commandments, and the Sabbath in particular, should be kept as a result of our gratitude for God saving us from slavery to sin.

 

 

2.  At the Jerusalem Council, when certain ones urged that Gentile converts to Christianity be circumcised and keep the law of Moses, the Council rejected the necessity of circumcision and did not mention the Sabbath as a requirement either.  Doesn’t that prove that Gentile Christians do not have to keep the 7th-day Sabbath?

 

“But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, ‘It is necessary to circumcise them [Gentile converts], and to command them to keep the law of Moses.’”  Acts 15:5.  “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these things:  that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality.  If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well.”  Acts 15:28-29.

 

A.  First, it is inconceivable that since circumcision was specifically mentioned as a demand for Gentile converts to have done, they would not have also included Sabbath-keeping if the Gentile believers were not keeping the Sabbath already.  In this context, the fact that neither side mentioned the Sabbath strongly indicates that the Gentile converts were already keeping the 7th-day Sabbath.

 

B.  Second, this conclusion is reinforced by Peter’s description that the Pharisee Christians’ view of the “law of Moses” was that they were attempting to put “a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear” (verse 10).  Since God’s law given through Moses never put such a burden on His people, this must refer to the Oral Law—a body of Jewish tradition that the Pharisees had championed (as part of the law of Moses) that did indeed place a burden on the Jewish people.

 

C.  Third, the four requirements that the Council made for the Gentile converts were drawn from Leviticus chapters 17-18, which Gentiles living among the Jews were required to keep in order to maintain peace between the two groups.  This decision was obviously a diplomatic one designed to calm the Pharisee Christians since converts would already be abstaining from sexual immorality anyway.

 

D.  Moreover, since verses 9, 14-17 declare that Gentile converts were fully a part of God’s people, we know they were already keeping the 7th-day Sabbath according to Isaiah 56:6-7.  Therefore, it is wrong to conclude that the Jerusalem Council exempted Gentile Christians from keeping the 7th-day Sabbath.

 

 

3.  With all the changes to the calendar over the centuries, haven’t we lost track of which day is the 7th day of the week?

 

Answer:  First, all scholars of time agree that our Saturday was the 7th day of the week in Jesus’ day, and Christians know that Jesus would not be mistaken about which day was the Sabbath.  Second, the only permanent change to the calendar since Jesus’ day was the replacement of the Julian calendar with the Gregorian calendar.  This was done because the Julian calendar had provided for too many leap years.  To correct this, Pope Gregory XIII’s scholars deleted ten days from the year.  Issued in October 1582, the Gregorian calendar had Thursday, October 4 followed immediately by Friday, October 15.  Protestant nations later followed suit, and this is the same calendar the whole world uses today.  The important thing to note is that Thursday was still followed by Friday.  Therefore, Sunday is still the 1st day of the week, and Saturday is still the 7th day of the week.

 

 

4.  Does the New Testament teach that the Sabbath was changed from Saturday to Sunday?

 

(1) Matthew 28:1; (2) Mark 16:2; (3) Mark 16:9; (4) Luke 24:1; (5) John 20:1; (6) John 20:19

 

Answer:  There are a total of eight New Testament texts that explicitly refer to the 1st day of the week (Sunday).  Six of them are listed in this question, and all six simply refer to the Sunday on which Jesus was resurrected.  John 20:19 merits specific comment:  “Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews….”  But the reason the disciples were assembled is clearly stated as “for fear of the Jews”, not because they were initiating a new Sabbath for Christians.

 

 

5.  In the book of Acts, there is one occasion in which the disciples assemble to break bread on the 1st day of the week.  Doesn’t breaking bread refer to the Communion service?  Therefore, isn’t this evidence for a change in the Sabbath?

 

“Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight.  There were many lamps in the upper room where they were gathered together.”  Acts 20:7-8.

 

A.  First, note that this meeting began in the evening because of the reference to many lamps.  So whether Luke used the Biblical (sunset to sunset) or the Roman reckoning of days (midnight to midnight), it was either a Saturday night or a Sunday night meeting, respectively.  Neither one was a normal time for a church service, based on the practice of synagogues (the first Christians were Jews) or later churches.

 

B.  Second, advocates of Sunday observance point to the breaking of bread as proof of a Communion service.  However, outside of this possible meeting, the breaking of bread refers to a Communion service only twice in the entire New Testament.  The evidence here strongly suggests a special farewell meeting for the apostle Paul since he was going to leave Troas the next day.  Therefore, this passage is not evidence at all for a change in the Sabbath.  And this is the only New Testament passage that refers to any kind of meeting on the first day of the week!

 

 

6.  The last (eighth) New Testament text that refers to the first day of the week mentions an offering.  Does this prove that Sunday had become the regular Christian day of worship?

 

“Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches in Galatia, so you must do also:  On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.”  I Corinthians 16:1-2.

 

Answer:  Notice that each believer was to lay funds aside (this was for a special offering to help the saints suffering from drought in Jerusalem).  The original Greek adds that he is to do so “by himself”.  Thus, it’s clear that the “storing up” was to be done in each believer’s house.  So it’s plain to see that no assembling of believers in a worship service is referred to in this passage.  On the other hand, if early Christians were regularly meeting on Sundays for worship, why didn’t Paul instruct them to bring their funds to church so that the church treasurer could coordinate the collection each week?  Therefore, this passage is actually proof that the early church was, in fact, not worshiping on Sundays!

 

 

7.  There is a disputed text in Revelation that is widely regarded as a reference to weekly Sunday observance.  Is that the correct interpretation?

 

“I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day….”  Revelation 1:10.

 

A.  The first unmistakable use of “the Lord’s [day]” as a reference to Sunday is found in the false Gospel According to Peter (verses 35, 50), dated near the end of the 2nd century A.D., far too late to have been written by the real apostle Peter.  Two earlier references to “the Lord’s” also do not have the word “day”, and furthermore, the context in Didache 14:1 implies “the Lord’s doctrine” (or commandment) and “the Lord’s life” in the Epistle to the Magnesians 9:1.

 

B.  The New Testament consistently refers to Sunday only as “the first day of the week”.  Although Revelation 1:10 is the only reference to “the Lord’s day” in Scripture, this unique language is probably a play on words since the apostle John was exiled on the island of Patmos because he refused to declare that the Roman emperor was “lord”.  

 

C.  And because you should not judge an earlier passage by those written 100 years or more later, we ought to look to the Bible for the answer to its meaning:  “…the Sabbath of the Lord your God.”  Exodus 20:10.  “…call the Sabbath a delight, The holy day of the Lord….”  Isaiah 58:13.  “For the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”  Matthew 12:8.  “Therefore, the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.”  Mark 2:28.

 

Answer:  The only weekly day that is ever said to belong to the Lord in the Bible is the 7th-day Sabbath.  Therefore, we conclude that Revelation 1:10 is a statement that John was in vision on the Sabbath.

 

 

8.  If the New Testament did not change the Sabbath, then in what century and by whom was Sunday observance introduced into the Christian Church?

 

A.  At some point in the first half of the 2nd century A.D. (101-150), the churches in Rome and in Alexandria, Egypt made a sudden departure from the Sabbath to Sunday observance.  We can speculate that the major Jewish revolt (Bar Kochba Revolt) in 132-135 probably played a major role, for the Roman emperor prohibited Sabbath observance by the Jews.  There is historical evidence of anti-Semitism rising up about that time, and the church in Rome was under the nose of the emperor, while Alexandria had a large Jewish population.  It would be an advantage for the Christians, especially in these major cities, not to be associated with the Jews in the Roman officials’ minds.  In particular, we know the church at Rome almost immediately began pushing both the weekly Sunday and the annual Easter Sunday on the rest of Christianity.

 

B.  The evidence cited in Question #7A above indicates the widespread adoption of weekly Sunday worship by the large majority of churches elsewhere because “the Lord’s” (without the need for the word “day”) had become the common way for referring to Sunday by the late 2nd century.  At the same time, as late as the 5th century, most Christians were worshiping on both the Saturday Sabbath and on Sunday:  “The people of Constantinople, and almost everywhere, assemble together on the Sabbath, as well as on the first day of the week, which custom is never observed at Rome or at Alexandria.”  The Fathers of the Church, www.newadvent.org/fathers, “Sozomen,” “Ecclesiastical History,” bk. 7, ch. 19.

 

 

9.  Which century represented a turning point away from keeping the 7th-day Sabbath holy by the majority of Christians?

 

A.  When Roman Emperor Constantine was “converted” to Christianity in 312, he made it a legal religion in 313 by the Edict of Milan.  Then knowing that the Roman Empire in the West was in grave danger of falling, he sought for religious glue that might hold the Empire together.  The two chief religions in the 4th century were Christianity and Mithraism.  As a sun-worshiping cult, Mithraism’s special day was Sunday (day of the sun).  And Christians worshiped the Son (Jesus).  So in 321, Constantine issued the world’s first Sunday Law, which prohibited unnecessary work on Sundays.  Ironically, his strategy did not save the Roman Empire.

 

B.  Now with pressure from the government to not work on Sundays, the church Council of Laodicea (also 4th century) commanded that Christians work on the Sabbath and thus not Judaize (see the anti-Semitism here).  Nevertheless, that same Christian council provided for Bible readings for 7th-day Sabbath services—after which, the believers should work and thus ignore the holiness of the Sabbath.

 

C.  So by about the middle or so of the 4th century, most Christians (outside Rome and Alexandria) met on Sabbath and Sunday mornings but kept neither day as a real Sabbath (that is, as 24 hours of holy time).  Eventually, it was inevitable that competition between the two days would result in one of them falling away as even a worship day.  Although the Sabbath was more respected in the Eastern Roman Empire (even if not kept as a holy day), it was the day that eventually fell away—although evidence exists that actual 7th-day Sabbath-keeping has never disappeared altogether in Christian history.

 

 

10.  Does Romans 14 teach that it doesn’t make any difference which day we choose for public worship or a Sabbath day?

 

“Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things.  For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables.”  Romans 14:1-2.  “One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike.  Let each be fully convinced in his own mind.”  Romans 14:5.  “We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves.”  Romans 15:1.

 

Answer:  First, note that the whole discussion in Romans 14 is about “doubtful things”, not about established truths.  Second, vegetarianism can be the healthiest diet, especially in our modern day; but nowhere does the Bible command believers to be vegetarians.  So this is not about the health laws in the books of Moses; it is therefore highly unlikely that the Sabbath is the issue here either.  Third, there is much more talk in the chapter about food than days that it probably refers to differences about which days are better for fasting—although we cannot be certain exactly what the dispute was about.  In any case, Bible scholars seem to agree that it was the weak members who had strong feelings about esteeming one day over another.  Yet, in Romans 15:1, Paul classifies himself as one of the strong members; yet we saw in Lesson #10 that Paul kept the 7th-day Sabbath.  Therefore, critics of the Sabbath would have Paul contradicting himself by telling Christians in Rome that only weak believers kept the Sabbath, but that he himself was a strong member who kept the Sabbath!

 

 

11.  Doesn’t Galatians 4 teach that there is no Sabbath—Saturday or Sunday—for Christians?

 

“But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served those which by nature are not gods.  But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage?  You observe days and months and seasons and years.”  Galatians 4:8-10.

 

Answer:  Critics of the Sabbath cite the word “days” as referring to the Sabbath.  But note the context here.  Paul accuses at least many of the believers in Galatia that they had “turn[ed] again to the weak and beggarly elements….”  The Greek word for “elements” refers to astrological superstitions.  And the turning back to those superstitions is returning to the time before they were Christians.  Therefore, this passage says nothing at all about the Sabbath or any other Christian observances.

 

 

12.  Colossians 2 seems to suggest that there is no Christian Sabbath of any kind.  Is that true?

 

“So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.”  Colossians 2:16-17.

 

A.  The context in Colossians 2 is about staying away from human “philosophy and empty deceit…the tradition of men…the basic principles of the world….”  Verse 8.  It also concerns “regulations”…“false humility and worship of angels…the commandments and doctrines of men”.  Verses 18, 20, 22.  Therefore, even if you assume that the “sabbaths” refer to the weekly Sabbath, Paul would be denouncing false human regulations about how to keep the Sabbath.

 

B.  Colossians 2:9-10:  “For in Him [Christ] dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.”—Apparently, the false teachers at Colosse were insisting that believers follow their regulations about things in order to experience a fuller, richer Christian life.  But Paul’s point is that (1) you are as complete as you can be if you are in Jesus, and (2) the false teachers’ regulations are shadows in contrast to Jesus being the real thing.

 

 

13.  Does it really make any difference whether one keeps the Saturday Sabbath or Sunday?  Besides, isn’t Sabbath-keeping legalistic anyway?

 

Answer:  The Sabbath is part of the Ten Commandments, which Lesson #8 and #9 demonstrated are a permanent reflection of God’s unchanging character.  So does it make any difference whether you commit adultery or not?  Does it make any difference whether you steal or not?  Of course it does.  Likewise, it makes a difference whether you keep the Sabbath or not.  Legalism is defined as keeping any of the Commandments in a vain attempt to earn your own salvation.  So can a person be guilty of legalism and keep the Sabbath?  Yes.  But if the Sabbath is kept out of love for God, then that’s not legalism at all.  For some reason, Christians never regard keeping nine of the Ten Commandments as legalism; but most focus on keeping the Sabbath Commandment as legalism because it’s an inconvenient truth.

 

 

14.  Why do we spend so much time talking about the Sabbath?  Isn’t that a bit unbalanced?

 

Answer:  We have two very good reasons for emphasizing the 7th-day Sabbath, and it’s not a bit unbalanced.  First, we learned in Lesson #10 that the 7th-day Sabbath will play an important role in the end-time crisis.  We believe, along with most Christians today, that we are fast approaching that crisis; so people need to be warned as an act of love and kindness.  Second, the Sabbath Commandment is the only one that God told us specifically to “Remember”, and it’s the one Commandment that almost the whole Christian world has forgotten.

 

 

Quiz for Lesson 11—The Sabbath Revisited

 

1.  Deuteronomy tells us that the reason to keep the Sabbath is that the Israelites were to remember that God brought them out of Egyptian slavery.  Doesn’t that mean that the Saturday Sabbath is the Jewish Sabbath only? (3)

  Remembering that God had brought them out of Egyptian slavery was only an additional reason for Israel to keep the Sabbath.

  The conclusion in this question completely ignores the evidence given in Lesson #10.

  Yes, the 7th-day Sabbath was given only to the Israelites, and Sunday to the Christians.

  Gentiles are born into bondage to sin; so the Sabbath reminds us that Jesus got us out.

Answer

Remembering that God had brought them out of Egyptian slavery was only an additional reason for Israel to keep the Sabbath.
The conclusion in this question completely ignores the evidence given in Lesson #10.
Gentiles are born into bondage to sin; so the Sabbath reminds us that Jesus got us out.

2.  Which of the following statements about the Jerusalem Council are true? (2)

  If a big issue were made about Gentile believers being circumcised, then the 7th-day Sabbath would have been part of the discussion too if the Gentiles were not already keeping it.

  By declaring that Gentile believers only had to meet four requirements, the Council was saying that they did not have to keep the 7th-day Sabbath.

  The Oral Law was Jewish Tradition that some at the meeting were pushing on Gentiles.

Answer

If a big issue were made about Gentile believers being circumcised, then the 7th-day Sabbath would have been part of the discussion too if the Gentiles were not already keeping it.
The Oral Law was Jewish Tradition that some at the meeting were pushing on Gentiles.

3.  Have any of the calendar changes since the time of Jesus caused us to lose track of which day is the 7th day of the week? (2)

  The calendar changes were made because the earlier calendar had too many leap years.

  The only calendar change did not affect the order of the days of the week.

  The calendar change was made by the Catholic Church, so it cannot be trusted.

Answer

The calendar changes were made because the earlier calendar had too many leap years.
The only calendar change did not affect the order of the days of the week.

4.  There are a total of 6 times the New Testament clearly refers to the 1st day of the week (Sunday). (1)

  True

  False

Answer

False

5.  Which statements about the “Lord’s day” are true? (3)

  The first unmistakable use of “the Lord’s [day]” as a reference to Sunday was written near the end of the 2nd century A.D.

  The earliest references to “the Lord’s [day]”, outside of Revelation 1:10 do not have the word day present.

  Revelation 1:10 uses “the Lord’s day” to refer to the day of the Lord because the book of Revelation is a book of judgments.

  The only day that the Bible declares belongs to the Lord is the 7th-day Sabbath.

Answer

The first unmistakable use of “the Lord’s [day]” as a reference to Sunday was written near the end of the 2nd century A.D.
The earliest references to “the Lord’s [day]”, outside of Revelation 1:10 do not have the word day present.
The only day that the Bible declares belongs to the Lord is the 7th-day Sabbath.

6.  When, and by which city’s church, was the 7th-day Sabbath first abandoned? (1)

  In the 4th century, the church in Rome abandoned the Sabbath.

  In the 2nd century, the church in Constantinople abandoned the Sabbath.

  In the 2nd century, the church in Rome abandoned the Sabbath.

  In the 4th century, the church in Athens abandoned the Sabbath.

Answer

In the 2nd century, the church in Rome abandoned the Sabbath.

7.  Which statements below about the turning point in Christianity as a whole over the issue of the Sabbath and Sunday are true? (3)

  The 4th century was the turning point away from the 7th-day Sabbath as a whole.

  Emperor Constantine became a Christian and issued the world’s first Sunday law.

  A Church Council told Christians to hold a worship service on the Sabbath, but to otherwise work on that day.

  The 2nd century was the turning point away from the 7th-day Sabbath as a whole.

Answer

The 4th century was the turning point away from the 7th-day Sabbath as a whole.
Emperor Constantine became a Christian and issued the world’s first Sunday law.
A Church Council told Christians to hold a worship service on the Sabbath, but to otherwise work on that day.

8.  The New Testament teaches that there is no Christian Sabbath? (1)

  True

  False

Answer

False

9.  Doesn’t keeping any day holy make a believer a legalist? (1)

Does keeping the Commandment against adultery make one a legalist?

Does keeping the Commandment against stealing make one a legalist?

Then does keeping the Sabbath Commandment make one a legalist?

  Yes

  No

Answer

No

10.  Why do you spend so much time emphasizing the Sabbath?  (Isn’t that a sign of obsession and unbalance?) (2)

  because we like to show our differences with other churches

  because it is the only Commandment that begins with the word Remember

  because we believe it will play a prominent role in the final crisis

  because we like to irritate those who are different from us

Answer

Because it is the only Commandment that begins with the word Remember
Because we believe it will play a prominent role in the final crisis